Swiss scientists have made a step forward in understanding how resistance to HIV could be encoded within our own genes, according to a new paper in the journal eLife. Every person infected with HIV mounts some kind of immune response to the virus, and some people can even hold the infection at bay without taking anti-viral drugs. The researchers, led by Jacques Fellay, traced how HIV viruses sampled from more than a thousand infected people had genetically changed over time, in response to attacks by the immune system, looking at more than 3,000 mutations.
Then they also mapped the gene variations in the human genome that might be responsible for fighting back. Importantly, the researchers needed to look at data from samples taken before there were effective HIV treatments, to make sure they were only focusing on the natural effects of the immune system, so they had to trawl databases from the 1980s. It's the biggest global overview to date of the genes involved in HIV resistance, and the scientists think that their results could one day lead to more effective, genetically personalised therapies.